2008-09 Player by Player Part 2
Without further ado, I give you part two:
16.Aaron RAMSEY- Very much earmarked in the "potential" bracket, Ramsey has had an encouraging first season. Signed as a spotty seventeen year old from Cardiff, he has had to acclimatise to shifting up a couple of echelons at a very young age and has taken to the challenge well. His Carling Cup performances marked him out as a real star of the future and even had people whispering that he could be Fabregas` long term replacement when the Catalonian eventually toddles off home to Spain. He has a calm and presence on the ball that belies his years and a passing range to match. Still a little too prone to hanging onto the ball for too long or to be unnecessarily ostentatious in possession, but at just 18 one would expect Wenger to iron out these creases in time. His game time became limited at the end of the season with Fabregas returning from injury and with the Carling Cup campaign curtailed before Christmas, but simply being in and around the first team squad for the majority of the season will have benefited him no end. 7 out of 10.
Highlight: His first Arsenal goal in Turkey, when a low raking drive crept into the Fenerbahce net from eighteen yards.
17.Alexandre SONG Billong- A player that would be most supporters` choice for 'most improved.` Song has been handed a more prominent role this season and taken to it well. The signs of a good screening midfielder have been there throughout the last couple of Carling Cup campaigns, but in grabbing a few more league outings and getting more pairs of eyes actually watching him, he has won the supporters over with performances of skill and commitment. He was heavily criticised for his lackadaisical substitute appearance in the 4-4 abomination with Spurs and since then has looked a more focused individual. I still think his positional sense needs work, the reason he has caught the eye of Joe Public more than Denilson is due to the fact that he runs around a lot, but I think he has some way to go to match Denilson`s positional sense. However, he has improved his ball distribution undoubtedly and looks a more composed player in possession. However, the manager still seems to have his doubts as to whether he is a centre half or a central midfielder, I personally prefer him as the former due to his height. I double Wenger`s doubts as to whether he has the energy to play defensive midfield for long periods as he does find himself having to move metronomically to compensate for his lack of positional savvy. 7
Highlight: His masterful shepherding of Steven Gerrard in the 1-1 home draw with Liverpool in December.
18.Mikael SILVESTRE- I feel sorry for the Toad from Mario kart doppelganger for many reasons. Firstly, because he has been appointed chief scapegoat in light of the improvements of Bendtner, Song and Eboue, despite the fact that he has not played a lot. The level of vitriol levelled at him by some supporters, on this site as well as in the stadium, leaves me a little uncomfortable. Some of the abuse has been quite personal and ill measured, culminating in a shareholder memorably labelling him as a "geriatric." But I also feel sorry for him because he used to be a very good defender who is now suffering as a result of several long term injuries. With the play in front of him, Silvestre is a good defender who reads situations very quickly and uses the ball intelligently. Unfortunately, his legs are no longer as sharp as his mind and when forced to turn and run back towards goal he resembles a defeated passenger desperately scrabbling for the last train. Agbonlahor`s goal at the Emirates and Drogba`s at Wembley saw Silvestre limply jogging towards goal when the ball was played in behind him. A fallibility Wigan almost latched onto with some success at the JJB in April too. The fact that Song and Gibbs played ahead of him in the last three fixtures of the season probably says that old father time is calling for last orders where Silvestre is concerned. His display in the Carling Cup at Turf Moor, when he was made captain amidst a team of teenagers was possibly the worst performance I saw from an Arsenal player this season. 5.5
Highlight: Scoring your first Arsenal goal against Tottenham would be a highlight for any player.
20.Johan DJOUROU- It`s been something of a mixed season for Djourou. With Toure banished into the shadows in the winter, Djourou`s extra height and aerial prowess saw him pin down a first team slot for a month or so and he contributed to Arsenal`s run of clean sheets. However, Toure and Gallas soon resumed their partnership, however tempestuous, with some success and Djourou was once again cast asunder. Johan is a defender who is eerily calm and physically imposing, however, you get the impression that if he is ever to make it as a bona fide first choice at Arsenal, next season is make or break, otherwise he may just have to settle for being an excellent back up. 7.5
Highlight: His reaction to his unfortunate own goal at Stamford Bridge in November, after which he put in a colossal man of the match performance.
21.Lukasz FABIANSKI- Lukasz is a very brave goalkeeper, but still with some pitfalls to overcome. I`ve always favoured a goalkeeper that takes risks and isn`t afraid to make errors in the interest of being positive, I think nine times out of ten a goalkeeper will win you more games than he loses you. However, Fabianski needs to learn when to come off his line and be positive rather than just coming out for everything. His Carling Cup performances were exemplary and some of the saves he has made this season have been gravity defying. See his goal line stops that defied Zaki at the Emirates and Distin at Fratton Park for proof. He has made some high profile errors in big matches which perhaps point to the fact that he is not ready for such encounters yet, but this season will have been a steep learning curve from which he can only learn. What I like about Fabianski is that he seems to be mentally undeterred by his mistakes, Manninger and Wright were good goalkeepers who allowed the scar tissue of past errors to go septic. Lukasz has the ability to quickly forget and carry on being a positive goalkeeper. I still have very high hopes for this young man`s future, at 23, he is a relative teen in goalkeeping parlance. 7
Highlight: His point blank range stop, defying Amir Zaki from all of three yards against Wigan in the Carling Cup.
22.Gael CLICHY- As with Fabregas, some might say this has been Clichy`s least impressive season at Arsenal. His unprofessional error against Spurs which kick started Tottenham`s inexcusable comeback in October was hardly the first he has committed. Clichy has often been guilty of mentally taking his foot off the accelerator whenever Arsenal have been in the ascendancy. He obviously took the mistake very personally and his form suffered for a while thereafter. However, as with Fabregas Clichy has set himself gargantuan standards indeed and going against the gauge of most of the league`s full backs, he has enjoyed a solid season. Once again, he has been asked to forge another partnership on the left hand side with Nasri as Arsenal`s revolving door of wingers continues and as a result he has not been quite as threatening going forward. However, defensively, he is still excellent clocking up a mountain of interceptions by using his pace and anticipation. Clichy has recently revealed that the back injury that ended his season in April has been a long standing one, if you`ll excuse the pun. It would appear that yet again, the manager is guilty of burning a player out as Gael has played an awful lot of football since 2006. Hopefully, the emergence of Gibbs as a credible back up will see Wenger rotate the position a bit next season and allow Clichy to maintain the high octane performances that have made him a firm fans` favourite. 7
Highlight: He finally managed his first Arsenal goal this season, albeit in anti climatic circumstances, with a deflected last minute effort against Stoke in November.
23.Andrey ARSHAVIN- The catalyst of a season that looked doomed to mediocrity prior to his arrival, gave the team a much needed spark in the creative department and was a massive factor in Arsenal qualifying for the Champions League. Had he been eligible to represent Arsenal in that tournament this season, things might have been more different still. Has already become renowned as one of Arsenal`s best players, a cool head in the final third and incredibly decisive with a ball at his feet, he has sped up the evolution of Arsenal`s often overly ponderous build up play. With ten assists and six goals in his fifteen games for Arsenal, he has already identified himself as a genuine match winner. I can`t be alone in thinking that Arsenal might be contemplating Europa Cup football had his protracted signing not taken place in February. 8
Highlight: It would be easy to pinpoint his four goal demolition at Anfield, but for me his first Arsenal goal against Blackburn was a real eye opener. A goal of impudence, improvisation and intelligence, ordinary players do not score goals like that one. It was his first goal for the club and announced his arrival succinctly.
25.Emmanuel ADEBAYOR- Sixteen goals, eight assists, top scorer in the Champions League. Not a bad return in black and white, particularly as the player has suffered with injury. However, last summer Adebayor chose to elect himself several stations above "not bad" and agitated for the salary increase to reflect it. Ade made the rod for his own back by declaring himself the Big I am and the truth is he has underperformed in too many games. If you peer beneath the aforementioned statistics, you see a story emerge. None of his league goals and only one of his assists came against opponents that finished in the top seven. Discounting the valuable away goal in Villarreal, Adebayor only scored decisive, match winning goals on two occasions (versus Wigan and Manchester City at home). His performances in the F.A. Cup Semi Final with Chelsea and the Champions League first leg Semi Final at Old Trafford were verging on disgrace and he was substituted in both games, rarely featuring again thereafter. The industry and work rate that won the supporters over last year have been replaced by apathetic shrugs and moon faced expressions. On occasion you have genuine cause for sympathy, he has often played upfront alone in a team that has not created as many chances this season, he has also become more clinical in front of goal. One of the key criticisms of his thirty goal haul last season was that he really should added to it by at least another ten goals. I cannot recall too many glaring misses from him this season. Adebayor was more than happy to absorb the acclaim and ask for the pay rise after the stellar season he enjoyed in 2007-08, but now this campaign has not worked so well for him, he is blaming the media, the supporters, everybody except Adebayor. Once again making eyes towards Milan has won him no friends and few will rush to keep him from the door this summer, least of all the manager who once again invented another of his diplomatic injuries Arsenal players seem to pick up shortly before they are ushered out of the exit door. (See Wiltord, Sylvain and Edu for examples). 6
Highlight: His outrageous bicycle kick against Villarreal, which proved he has the materials to be the world class striker he clearly thinks himself to be.
26.Nicklas BENDTNER- Probably my choice for most improved, Bendtner has scored fifteen goals this season which is a very good return indeed for a striker who is not first choice. (He is also Arsenal`s top scorer in 2009). The Dane endured a difficult time in the winter, in an interview with the Arsenal programme prior to the Stoke game he admitted, "Frankly, I was playing like a pub footballer." But Bendtner is a player who is keen to improve and he has shown great mental strength to simplify his game and the hard work he has put in on the training pitch has seen results on the field in the second half of the season. Sometimes his execution can let him down, even though his ideas are often bright and positive, always looking for a killer pass. When disciplined by the club in the wake of the Champions League exit in May, Bendtner did not sulk or point fingers, he played in the next match against Chelsea and absolutely put his heart and soul into it. He is a player quick to analyse his own game, the inside word is that Bendtner is the best trainer at the club and I happen to think he has a very bright future as a goal scoring striker. At 21 he has plenty of time to iron out some of the technical aspects of his game that are found wanting on occasion, but in the box he is a real danger. Some might point to some missed chances this season, but Bendtner has been willing to put himself back in the firing line and not be perturbed. By no means perfect yet, but by no means the finished product, fifteen goals from a striker still learning the finer points of his game is not a gift horse one should look in the mouth. 7
Highlight: His crucial late winner in the home match with Dynamo Kyiv is an obvious choice, but I`m going to plump for his performance against Manchester United in November, asked to play upfront alone against Vidic and Ferdinand, Bendtner put in a very impressive shift and kept the two United centre halves occupied all afternoon.
27.Emmanuel EBOUE- His season will largely be remembered for one incident, but that ignores that Eboue has turned out a very impressive season. Over August and September, the general consensus was that he was one of our better players. Having been asked to play on the right, the left and even in the centre of midfield, Eboue has become a useful utility man. Like many of his colleagues, he picked up an injury at the wrong time and was rushed back from the bench against Wigan to play on the left wing, culminating in a nightmare performance which saw him mercilessly booed by Arsenal fans. The event knocked his confidence for a while, but to his credit, Eboue appears to have learned his lesson. At White Hart Lane in February, Eboue had been our best player until he received the stupidest of sending offs. Since that incident, he has buckled down and cut out the irritating aspects of his game and the three goals he garnered in two games in March have elevated him to cult status amongst the supporters. Amongst the myriad of chants invented for him, perhaps the most apt was put to the tune of "I Like To Move It, Move It." At Portsmouth 3,000 Arsenal fans were heard to sing the words, "We like Eboue-boue, We like Eboue-boue, we like E-BOUE!" Quite a turnaround from the Arsenal support, I only hope he invents a dance to supplement. Take note Adebayor, don`t whinge, moan and point fingers, just work hard and the supporters will always forgive you in the end. Players like Eboue seldom win you individual matches, but over the course of the season they can win you trophies. Ask Ferguson why he won`t listen to offers for O`Shea and Fletcher. 7
Highlight: Having already smashed one goal past Blobinson in the home mauling of Blackburn, Eboue won a penalty, sharply grabbed the ball and stuck the penalty away with aplomb, before dancing in front of the church of Eboue in the Red Section.
40.Kieran GIBBS- Something of a revelation at left back which, lest we forget, is a new position for Gibbs, with Clichy injured at the business end of the season, Gibbs was thrown into choppy waters against some of the world`s most formidable opponents and he did not look at all out of place. Though his first game against Wigan was slightly shaky and probably should have resulted in a red card, he has taken to the big occasions with the minimum of fuss. Clearly heartbroken by his slip against United at home in May, Gibbs came back from the error and did not look a weaker player at all. In the long term, the fact that the manager trusted him in the ensuing games will have done wonders for his confidence and he repaid that faith with performances that belied his tender years. A steady, solid full back who knows when to come forwards and when to drop back, he is a precise and careful tackler, not beset by the often youthful indiscretion of diving in, Gibbs has mastered the art of shepherding an attacker and showing him inside a la Winterburn. Comparisons with Cole are unfair as I think Gibbs has his own style as a full back, an intelligent player who has shown he has the mentality, as well as the talent to survive at this level. Expect his role in the first team to be expanded next season so that we don`t have to prime Clichy for the knacker yard any further and also expect a squad number to reflect a deservedly elevated place within the squad. We look on next season with interest to see how he develops his game further and really starts to challenge Clichy in the long run. Gibbs has probably ended Traore`s Arsenal career. 8
Highlight: Keeping Ronaldo quiet in the league game at Old Trafford to the extent that Ferguson made Rooney and Ronaldo swap flanks. Rooney still got very little change out of Gibbs and United rarely threatened.LD.